Survivor: Ciera, Hayden, and the wooing of Tyson’s lapdog

One thing I love about this season is that it continually surprises, especially in terms of people and how they play. Ciera and Laura M. have proven themselves to be break-out star players, each in their own way (strategically and in challenges), and there are many other examples. Who knew that at this stage, I’d be rooting for a former Big Brother player and be impressed by his oratory abilities?

While yet another Tribal Council of intense lobbying did not yield the results the underdogs hoped for, it was, once again, unpredictable.

Hayden and Ciera had one option left: a “Hail Mary play” to convince Monica about how she’s viewed by Tyson and Gervase. What Ciera told Monica seemed both accurate and somewhat like deception, since they just piled on things we haven’t actually seen recently. Monica said that learning they viewed her as a pawn “hurt me.”

Hayden took a fascinating, emotionally manipulative approach at Tribal, playing to her sense of self: “You’re Tyson’s lapdog, and that he’s using you all the way to the end. Brad’s gonna see that, you’re kids are gonna see that. And right now is the time when you can show everybody you’re a strong, independent woman and put a stamp on the game.”

But Monica stuck with them, sending Hayden to Redemption Island and likely the jury. Despite her resoluteness, I read Gervase’s strong reactions at Tribal Council as nervousness that Monica would switch, since he and Tyson just went through a Tribal where Ciera switched on them. However, Tyson was confident enough to keep his hidden idol hidden, perhaps still in his crotch.

Ciera wasn’t voted out thanks to an insane immunity challenge win, solving the puzzle first even though every else was far ahead of her, which we knew because we saw that was actually the last to start working on her puzzle, and because Probst said it repeatedly before jumping into a plane and writing in the sky “CIERA IS IN LAST PLACE WAY BEHIND FAR AWAY FROM OTHERS NOT IN FIRST LAST NO CHANCE LOSER.”

I am starting to suspect that Probst’s stating of the obvious this season may actually be a contagious disease he’s picked up in the Philippines, because it seems to be spreading. Monica started doing it, too, narrating her own obvious position as the swing vote in the third person: “It’s up to Monica and what she decides.”

Redemption Island was the all-too-familiar stick/key/door challenge, and despite offering advice to her daughter, Tina still won. Watching her decide to win and not essentially give up to allow Katie to remain in the competition was a really emotional moment, one that was, as usual, completely blown by Probst over-narrating it, even repeating the subtitle of this season in case we forgot, or in case Tina forgot Katie was her daughter.

All of this takes us into Sunday’s finale with an underdog, Ciera, possibly being joined by her mother, though we’re still at a 2-3 split if Monica doesn’t change her mind. That sets up a likely final three of Tyson, Gervase, and Monica, though the way this season has been going, I wouldn’t be surprised to be surprised.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.